Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grounded Criticism

I've taken it on myself to uncover the location of Los Angeles' best iced latte.

Disclaimer: This is the worst personal quest I could thrust on myself.

I've been trying very hard over the last summer to curb, if not entirely eliminate, my need for caffeine. I am, on the other hand, a graduate student, which makes said quest antithetical to my very existence. At very least, I have avoided soda in favor of tea or coffee. And I have avoided coffee in favor of good coffee. Again, an unfortunate choice, as good coffee costs more, and perhaps more than grad students can reasonably afford on a regular basis. From thence the paradox: go more broke or go less functional without my drug of choice?

The first attempt: L.A. Mill. A fortuitous occasion, since it was hot but I wanted a latte. It had a delightfully subtle gradation of color, as the coffee sank to the bottom, and the milk stayed above. Quite good.

Following attempts:
•Naturally, Starbucks. You know, because they're so unique to the Los Angeles area. Good, but obviously inconsistent at different locations (I've tried at least 10 different locations, people: Trojan Grounds, Vermont at Hoover, Beverly in B.Hills, Santa Monica at Fairfax or LaBrea...), with an occasional burned flavor.
Psychobabble in Los Feliz Village: never had a good iced latte from this place, which is sad, because I like their hot beverages. Iced, somehow, it's always a very acrid brew for which no amount of sweetener can compensate.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: Again, depends on the location (I've been to three of these), but generally better flavor than Starbucks, if a weaker cup. The Grove & Hillhurst at Franklin are good locations.
Café Teuscher in Beverly Hills: as you might expect from the site, their mocha is waaaaaay better than their latte, iced or no.
The Downbeat Café in Echo Park: Again, as with Psychobabble, I prefer their hot drinks. This, however, cannot but be avoided during hot summer months.

So far, though, the best iced latte L.A. has given me was from Peet's Coffee & Tea in Beverly Hills. The Peet's in the Glendale Galleria falls somewhat short, as it's just the coffee bar and not an entire coffee *shop*, per se. The iced latte I had in the BH location had not only the pleasant color gradation as first exemplified at L.A. Mill, strong flavor without bitterness, and subtle but palpable caffeine buzz, but the crowning achievement: a frothed top. With frothed milk, Peet's definitely set the iced latte beyond something that looks just as much like an iced coffee that you could get anywhere else.

Now here's the scandal to bring you back home to the disclaimer: some days I was just looking for caffeine, not a great beverage; some days I got a nonfat or 2% instead of whole milk; different baristas prepared the drinks; different times of day... blah blah blah. There is no real control in this experiment, which is irksome even to me. Maybe I should start it all again.

Or, if you like, recommend me to some new places: Intelligentsia, you'll notice, is not on the list. I haven't been there since Judy and I saw that really tragically ugly hipster: the experience was scarring. I'd also like to include Coffee Table or others that I'm obviously forgetting.


  1. Manda and I LOVED Peet's when we were in LA... as I read your post, I was totally going to call it out to you as a suggestion; I'm glad to know you already love it.

    Also, if you're ever in OH, we'll make you a latte that will knock your socks off. Just saying...


  2. Intelligentsia is FABULOUS! And their coffee is really pretty!!

  3. Fabulous like a hipster who curls his bangs and wears a purple-checked v-neck cardigan with no undershirt?

    Oh wait, that's not fabulous, it's nauseating.